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The Rise of Adult Soft Drinks



There has previously been somewhat of a stigma attached to non-alcoholic ‘adult’ drinks.  To go to a bar with you mates and opt for a ‘near beer’ instead of a pint of the real stuff certainly wouldn’t go unnoticed – and not in a good way.  Sure, non-alcoholic beers and the like have served their purpose (recovering alcoholics, pregnant woman, or someone just trying to cut back) but it seems that these type drinks don’t get a lot of love.

How have things changed?

Fast forward to the present and opinions have started to change.  The more health conscious among us are looking for an alternative to their normal tipple.  Trends show that amongst those of us that consume alcohol on a regular basis, 59% are making a conscious effort to limit how much they drink.  There also seems to be a growing concern about the long term effects of too much booze.  A growing interest in things like ‘Dry January’ shows how out attitudes are changing.

However, the trend isn’t just about having a juice, a soft drink or a glass of tap water instead of a pint or glass of wine.  People (and by people I mean adults) want to have a drink that is just as sophisticated as their alcoholic counterparts but are importantly still seen as ‘adulty’.  Apparently, 56% of consumers globally would like to see more “craft” style non-alcoholic drinks.  This makes sense to me, seeing as part of the reason why craft beer has been so successful is because people like the idea of drinking something unique, and not mass market.  There is the potential out there for an array of non-alcoholic craft drinks that offer superior quality, premium ingredients and unique flavours. 

How are brands responding?

Budweiser have just released their version of a non-alcoholic beer called ‘prohibition brew’ designed to cut the stigma and feed the growing demand.  Free Spirit, a US start-up company are due to launch a range of premium adult soft drinks which were “conceived in response to consumer demand for a more sophisticated adult soft drink offering”.

These new offerings are important for special occasions where you would normally have a few pints but where people want the option of a non-alcoholic but adult alternative.  From an FMCG point of view, brands can look to position their new adult soft drinks as the ideal substitute for both on and off trade occasions.

What does this mean for the industry?

According to the leading FMCG research group Canadean, the introduction of adult soft drinks “highlights the importance of aligning with evolving consumer needs and an important overarching trend of cross-category blurring”.  It seems then that we can get used to the idea of having a lot more choice when it comes to adult soft drinks.  You may find yourself swapping your staple brew for a healthier and more sophisticated option before you know it!

What does this mean for us?

I’m all for having more option when it comes to having a social drink out, and the idea of having a healthier non/low alcoholic alternative with new flavours and ingredients is definitely appealing.  However, beer brands have been producing lower calorie, ‘lighter’ versions for years and have become the staple beer of choice for many.  Perhaps ‘adult soft drinks’ are not really a category of their own, but instead just an extension of the alcoholic drinks category in a bid to cater to more health conscious consumers.


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